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Anticipating rain that didn’t come, we went to see Sing 2 in a cinema in Zeeland on Saturday. Except for Bono, a great movie. (Bono voices a musician that has disappeared entirely from public view for 15 years. If that were only true…)
The Sing movies are not – how to say it politely – uncontested? As David Ehrlich wrote about the movie’s studio Illumination in a – somewhat – unflattering review:
“For Pixar, story is everything. For Illumination, story is a lubricant for cross-promotional opportunities. Hyperactivity, constant noise, and calculated cuteness reign supreme. (…) “The Lorax,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Minions,” “The Secret Life of Pets” — their subsequent products have enough moments of charm and visual wit that only serve to highlight the creative bankruptcy around them. The movies prove considerably less memorable than their marketing campaigns; “Minions” was conceived in a $600 million orgy of cross-promotional publicity.”
Alissa Wilkinson at Vox – also maybe not the biggest fan – adds,
“Sing is the sort of movie for which the almost universal adjective uttered upon leaving the theater will be “cute!” And it is, actually. There are plenty of cute moments. It is relentlessly cute. It doesn’t want you to forget that it’s cute for one single second. Sing is less a movie and more a relentless slapstick-y and occasionally sentimental music video aimed at kids, who will beg to watch it on loop until parents beg for a return to Frozen.”
I.e., there are better movies to watch. But, alas, Sing spoke to my desire to be a performer, and Sing 2 reminded me that a dream is to be on stage, especially if it’s a CGI stage that defies physics.
The complete recording of NRC Future Affairs x Leiden European City of Science 2022, which I wrote about in an earlier update, is now online. The whole four hours are maybe a bit much, so I’d like to focus on one question which has come back to me now and again. Jessica van der Schalk asked Leen Gorissen what the role of humans is in nature if we didn’t have the task of fixing our own destruction (i.e., in a perfect world).
Leen believed our role is spreading consciousness, maybe even to other planets, and acknowledging consciousness in other living creatures. I’m not satisfied with this answer. Over coffee, a fellow participant suggested we exist to appreciate the complexity of it all. This also seems far-fetched to me.
In Energy and Civilization, Vaclav Smil calculates the energy resources (mainly food) early humans needed to maintain their communities and energy-intensive brains. Even when the earth’s population was tiny, the need to hunt large animals for food was sufficient to drive species into extinction. Human communities may offer positive contributions to ecosystems as long as our numbers stay super low (millions instead of billions). At current numbers, it is hard to see how we fit in nature instead of nature finding its way around us.
In the carefree years before Napster, when I was still in secondary school, I had a favorite record store. It must have been 1996 or 1997 that I started spending a significant chunk of my supermarket earnings at Simpele Fons, as the store was named. Simpele Fons was an iconic store in the old city of Dordrecht. Because it was conveniently located only a few blocks from my school, and because these were the laissez-faire 90s, I spent a lot of time browsing its catalog, learning about music from the owner, and being impressed by the local hotshots that also shopped there.
When I discovered Simpele Fons, it had just changed ownership. Its founder had wanted to establish a non-conventional store for alternative music in 1973. Small and uneven, he had created a chamber of curiosities for music lovers. Later I learned I had been there as a small child, playing on one of the stairs as my father browsed records. By 1996 bad health had forced the founder to sell, but the store kept its charm under new management. Every visit was a personalized experience. If you wanted to, you could sit down on one of the two listening sofas and play through a curated pile of CDs that would have been set aside for you. The store was a brick-and-mortar discovery and recommendation engine.
I hadn’t thought about Simpele Fons in decades until this week during a workshop, and then I kept thinking about it.
Almost all our stories are based on the information we accidentally have at hand. Bright people and diverse organizations have a lot of information and can tell great stories. However, most of us have to make do with bits and pieces here and there and base our truth on that.
The records I bought at Simpele Fons (mostly punkish) shaped a narrative that I believed to be true. I started thinking, what if the owners had slipped a copy of ROSALÍA’s new record MOTOMAMI in my curated pile (ignore the chronological gaffe for now)? This was the time of Refused’s epochal The Shape of Punk to Come, so the opening song (SAOKO) would not have shocked me. I hardly ever listened more than the first and fourth song to decide on a purchase. At home, I certainly would have been shocked (SHOCKED!) by the superb La Fama (featuring The Weekend), but still… what if?
When I left for university, Simpele Fons moved to a more central location and a more spacious shop. I went once and never returned. The new site definitely made business sense, but the comfortable chairs had been replaced by a listening installation that prohibited going through a pile at your own pace. It was busy. I didn’t feel at home. And then I downloaded Napster.
If you’re new to these updates and have made it to the end of this email, thanks. Sometimes there is a story I want to tell. Most often, like today, there is not. I do not think everything needs to be a perfect story. This is not Frozen; it is Sing.
Thanks for reading, have a great week!